Archive for August 3rd, 2011

Jealousy is a very strange thing is it not? … jealousy or in its lesser form possessiveness — inhabits us all. It is like a microbe that lives within any family, touches all human relations. Perhaps it is the least admirable of feelings … Ross to Demelza on her rejection of Valentine, Bk 1, ch 11, p 129

” … in this life it is better to live by absolutes, not to live by subtle dealings that no one can understand … Harriet to Ross, Book 3, Ch 5, p 467)”

Jeremy Poldark (Ioan Gufford) and Ben Carter (Hans Matheson) rowing into Nampara Cove (1996 Poldark, Stranger from the Sea)

Dear friends and readers,

It’s been a couple of weeks now since I finished Bella Poldark, the 12th and last of the Poldark novels. Written a year (2002) before Graham died (2003), this book brings the series to a fitting conclusion: the tragic death of Valentine, the boy Ross Poldark impregnated Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark with on the night (May 2, 1793) he raped her. I have put off writing this blog because I don’t have any fitting pictures for Valentine and the characters he involves himself with, the older adult lives of Ross and Demelza Poldark’s daughters, the widowed Clowance and young woman, Bella, and the new characters to become central to the novel, the disabled Music Thomas and Agneta Treneglos. Still I don’t want to leave the story unfinished, so will use what I can of Cornwall, and from the 1977-76, 77-78 and 1996 movies.

I fell into this book more intensely than I have for the last three. It was a little bemusing to consider there had been 11 years between the last book (Twisted Sword) and this one (Bella) and the opening chapters which insistently and moving record the grieving of the characters, some more overtly because they have such bitter memories of their own (Clowance who now knows for sure that she was never really married to Stephen as his first wife was still alive when he married her) or this young man was central to their existence (Demelza, his mother). It’s a felt death like this was a real person not a character.

The slow motion build-up of all the threads in the novels over several is partly what gives the books their feel of reality, for Jeremy Poldark first appeared for real as an adult presence in the eighth book (Stranger from the Sea) — though his birth was the culmination of the third (appropriately as it now turns after named after him. Since Jeremy’s birth was a first culmination and stood for continuing ongoing hope in Ross and Demelza’s marriage (Jeremy Poldark, the 3rd novel), his death is indeed the penultimate dark note in this series. Valentine’s is the last. I especially regret having no image for him (by an actor)

One element in it for me throughout has been is that I’ve bonded with Graham’s central character again and again and through these the implied author. That is probably central to my experience of comfort books: I bond with someone or a presence in the book. I’ve loved Ross, Demelza, Jinny Carter

Jinny (Gillian Bailey) and Jim Carter (Stuart Doughty) (their wedding day, he died early in the series, of disease and starvation in prison)

Drake Carne, Mowenna, Elizabeth (yes), and (to a lesser extent), Sam Carne, Emma Tregirls, and Rosina Hobyn, and by the end of the series Clowance, Jeremy and felt obscurely deeply even for Valentine and his ape.

The instinctive feminism of the series is still strongly in evidence, but in a new way, a new set of circumstances worked out to show women getting a “rough” or “raw deal” (Graham’s words in his Memoir): we see how a woman has no control over her children, the child may just be taken from her and no matter what others think of the father, they will not help her to get her child back but rather push her into going to live with the father/husband again. Further, that in last novel (a development out of the 11th) Graham shows real empathy with disabled people too — in a male and a female character. He shows how the local society’s response to them makes them what they are in part (better functioning or less). We see how risky it is especially for women who are susceptible to sexual bullying and rape (and death). In the male we may have the first autistic character to be dramatized in popular fiction. An unsung beauty in Graham.

I probably have not done real justice to the specific historical and political juncture (the 1820s) than I should have done. I needed to know more about Caroline of Brunswick than I do, of Canning, Liverpool, the specifics of war and politics in Europe and the UK.


Ross Poldark (Robin Ellis) as outside (1977-78 Poldark, Pt 11)

Bella, Book 1: Valentine

The novel is divided into five tight chunks, each one named after a central character in it. As in the case of Graham’s 2nd, 3rd and 4th novels (each named after a character), this does not mean the character figures centrally in all or even the majority of the scenes, nor that they are the teller. It’s rather that they as a central concept or presence is brooding over the book. Here it’s Ross’s illegitimate son’s amorality and his relationship to Ross; by the book’s end the rumors about Ross as father are brought before thickly before us (everyone knows), made probable (someone asks why he did not call his child by Serena, Ross instead of George) and it ends on a conversation between Demelza and Ross where they skirt around this. He is led to pay more attention to Valentine form Valentine’s beginning to come to him, both of which are partly brought on by the death of his legitimate and (now realized fully) much beloved older son, Jeremy.

It begins with a landscape — very typical and the character leading is Valentine. I knew eventually he must take central place, and it seems he will. In this opening he is doing much mischief — quietly and in ways people don’t do anything about. He has an odd step from his rickets and is recognizable from this. Ross Poldark is the POV and encounters Valentine coming back from the Treneglos house, where he has been visiting – he says a kitchen maid, Carla May. ‘

In the next segment Demelza tells Ross there is probably no such person, but rather Valentine is visiting the daughter of the man who owns the house, Agneta Treneglos, and it emerges quickly that Graham has invented another disabled person: something is wrong with her mental abilities but like Music Thomas it’s ambiguous. The ugly thing is this makes her desperate and vulnerable to Valentine and thus amuses him.

In a second encounter with his (biological) actual father, Valentine proposes that Ross come in with him on new smuggling schemes. The narrator is careful to reassure us that Ross will not; the aim of the scene is to set a plot in motion and reveal more of this young man — he is reaching out I suppose. We also hear once again of Selena, Valentine’s pregnant wife and how she has tried to slit her wrists — he’s said to be a sadistic kind of lover too. None of this feels melodramatic in the text and none is improbable or anything anyone does anything about.

A second character emerging is Clowance who lives apart from her parents at Trenwyn, now keeping up Stephen’s business. She is invited by George Warleggan’s wife, Lady Harriet to a party where Harriet is trying to get her to start accepting courtships and introduces a viable candidate, so to speak, a Mr Prideaux who then persists, and makes the mistake of when he finds her in Truro inviting her to have tea with someone he thinks she’ll like to be with: Cuby Trevanion Poldark.

The meeting is bitter and difficult for Clowance still holds Jeremy’s death against Cuby. Jeremy would not have joined the army but for Cuby’s first rejection of him is Clowance’s view. No one of Jeremy’s family takes any joy or interest in the congratulations people give them over his “hero’s glorious death.” Clowance does not visit her parents to avoid telling them (she’d be tempted) how Stephen betrayed her by marrying her bigamously, and to avoid Cuby who is there with Noelle, the first grandchild, a lot we are told. Though she has returned to early loyalties too and stays with her brother whose scheme it had been to marry her to Valentine. It was Valentine who broke that off.

Small theads start up again: Paul Kellows, the only one left of the three who robbed George Warleggan, now half-thriving, Dr Enys called in to the birth of Selena’s child (we realize Ross’s second grandchild), and Caroline to accompany Demelza to London. Ross and Demelza’s second living daughter, Isabella-Rose now 17, is still in love with Christopher Havergal who comes to propose marriage and say that preparatory to that (if she’s too young), she should come to London to have good masters for her singing.

Ross (John Bowe) and Demelza (Mel Martin) in bed together (96 Poldark)

Demelza and Ross have a long scene of talking in bed too: this indwelling between them endows the whole narrative with memory. She is now looking at the reality that only one small child is left to her. Two dead (Julia long ago, and now Jeremy), one staying away (Clowance) and at age 17 (Demelza’s age when she married Ross), Isabella-Rose to leave too. The one left the baby, Harry, had late in life — an afterthought. I felt for her loneliness. How lonely I am. And Ross? he could return to Parliament but his business which was to end the war in France, help his son, Jeremy, is now useless and as he looks out he sees not prosperity but more misery.

The government we are told is stopping war spending and the result is wide spread lack of jobs — this book was written 2001-2. Also the technological changes are throwing out more and the first grumblings of the Captain Swing riot begun. What to do in such a world?

A sort of dark mystery is brewing: it seems there have been a series of murders of women unexplained and un-investigated because so little is known about these victims. Menial marginalized females. Ross admits that some of Valentine’s ugliness comes from his having had a terrible childhood after his mother, Elizabeth died, as George Warleggan while keeping his word to treat Valentine as his son, never loved him, endlessly distrusted him, and now they are permanently estranged. Valentine to give him his due comes to his legitimate father with the news he is calling his son George; he is cold and distanced, but it doesn’t take much to realize this is a sort of attempt to heal the breach. It does not. If anything Harriet’s favoring Valentine, just embittered George further.


Trenwith, the ancestral home of the Poldarks (Goldolphin House, Cornwall)

Book 2: Agneta

The second book is named Agneta, after this mentally disabled young woman Valentine has been taking sexual advantage of for months. So Graham has brought to the fore his interest in people ambiguously disabled who are at great risk from the society since it refuses to help them at all generally. (There is a scene in the first book of cur types jeering at someone which links up to this theme.) Her father, John Treneglos actually visits Ross to demand some sort of reparation or help or revenge on the assumed supposition Ross is responsible (as Valentine’s real father), and Ross must tell him he has no control over this man.

The book begins with a set of letters: from George Canning (the closest Graham gets to providing a world historical character): he is urging Ross to return to public life and by way of chatting provides scenarios of politics across Europe and the Peterloo Massacre. It’s not only highly unusual to get such a knowing discussion of politics in and out of the UK in 1818 but one from the strongly leftist point of view — I rush to say that’s not Canning’s but is conveyed by Graham as the invisible narrator who writes from a perspective that lets us go beyond Canning’s point of view. I am again at something of a loss for knowing little of foreign affairs, especially George Liverpool, then prime minister and powerful.

From Clowance to an upper class young man who wanted to marry her (natch) and whose great house estate she and her mother visited, Lord Fitzmaurice. Again a large picture of society from this angle provided. Finally the young gifted daughter of Ross and Demelza, Isabella-Rose comes home from London with her suitor, Christopher Havergal. Now a whiff of the silver fork world from the point of view of fringe people

This is going to be backdrop for a character who is at risk as autistic.

Valentine is now accused of the murder of Agneta. She was seen (and we experience this scene) chasing after him, and he politely turning her away. She then went home after which she disappeared. After a several day hunt, her body was found with her throat brutally cut with slashes of knives – the way one of the marginalized women of the district was found. In her case her relatives did care: Ruth, who once wanted to marry Ross, her husband, this girl’s father, John. Even if she was disabled they loved her — maybe all the more in a curious twisted kind of way.

There is no evidence to convict Valentine whatsoever beyond the community knowledge he seduced, played with and then turned her away. His wife, Selena, has left him and gone to live at Cardew, with her father-in-law, George Warleggan who would not have taken her in but for Harriet. He is the putative grandfather and Harriet the only grandmother in place.

Ben Carter, now risen to become Ross’s foreman, is slowly coming to accept that Music Thomas is his brother-in-law and we see him walk with Music and Esther Carne, another (low) relative of Demelza and Sam. As to class and type they are suited at any rate. And Bella comes home to be with little Henry. Valentine does visit this family.

Hanging over the narrative is a sense of fear that there is a murderer in the community and we fear for everyone.

From the 96 Poldark, this suggests a hunt for a dangerous man

It might seem an otiose sort of plot-design to have a man who every probability points to murdered a young woman be turned into a suspect no one can arraign for lack of evidence and because he seems to have an air-tight alibi. But I see that Graham is after another sort of game here.

n order to help exonerate himself and get people to endure and talk with him, to keep himself inside his community, Valentine begins to black-mouth this young woman. He sneers at the idea she was “simple-witted” and begins to spread rumours she regularly had sex with many men and was a calculating wanton loose woman. The reality is that when she did go to parties, she was very bad at coping with male aggression and harassment and she did like to be the center of attraction and momentarily would be lured to private spots and let a certain amount of sex go on. That’s all that’s needed for many people in the area to dismiss her death as deserved. And among those who know that Valentine is a liar, is capable of blackening the girl this way, and doubt his alibi (his mother-in-law, Lady Harriet) the portrait of the girl rings ‘true enough’ that she too dismisses the girl.

Yesterday I read an article in Women’s Review of Books about a continuing spate of murders of factory and other marginalized women of all sorts along the Mexican-US border on the Mexican side. It’s been known about for years. It’s sometimes referred to as the femicide going on in Ciudad Juarez. The reviewer of the book, Making a Killing by Alcia Gaspar de Alva, with Georgina Guzman, Margaret Randall ends up contextualizing this ongoing slow slaughter with larger spates of murders (the supposed suicides of Orhan Pamuk’s Snow) with the continuing cultural disregard, fear and dislike of women we see today in many forms. Recently here in the west in 3 rape cases and recently a young woman accused of murdering her 2 year who was acquitted: there was no outcry against acquitting the rapists as there has been again acquitting this woman.

This is what Graham is showing us. He repeatedly has her relatives grieving and horrified and unable to defend her – because they buy into the same values, Their only defense is that she was disabled. That does not prevent people from assuming she was “loose.” Dr Enys testifies in a judicial way and is not heard.

The one person who acts on the supposition that Valentine is dangerous is his wife. She finds herself coerced into returning to his house and a couple of days later flees with her daughter once again as far as she can: a relative in London.

Elizabeth (Jill Townsend) realizing she had bound herself for life to a cruel tyrant (77-78 Poldark)

The depiction of this adds to the depictions of marital rape, of his heroine Demelza’s liaison and her refusal to stay in London as someone unsuited to cope, and the death of his other heroine, Elizabeth, as an escape from the misery of a life subjected to a man who thought Valentine not his and memories of a rape which did cause the existence of this boy make this aspect of liberty in the novels clear. The conventional stories of say Verity marrying the man she loved against her family’s will don’t come near these in power or radicalness — though it’s unheralded and done so quietly in and outside these books. That Agneta is also disabled adds to the point and shows an instinctive reaching out to who is hurt most.

There are stretches of the non-alive kind of thing one sees in all the books after The Angry Tide, as, for examples, we visit Geoffrey Charles (with Demelza) and see his wife is pregnant again. Graham is playing with his characters’ previous histories and moving them around the board but he is still interested in the history. So the framing is signficant: Philip Prideaux, interested in Clowance, visits the High Sheriff of Cornwall who confirms a picture of law and custom in the era. Despite draconian punishments, many crimes are committed with impunity because 1) this sort of thing is part of reality all the time, and 2) there is no organized police, and we get a sketch of the glimmerings of a police and other community organizations to deal with crime first in 1820.

Valentine has had the nerve to show up to his half-brother Geoffrey Charles’s party at Trenwith — where all the characters are brought together. It’s like OJSimpson showing up to a party of movie colleagues on the day after the trial acquittal. He is all aplomb, talking to others, but curious, he brings a sidekick plus an ape, Butto, who he has rescued from a savage organ grinding master who was torturing the poor creature (burning its feet) to make it dance. We see him provide a comfortable place for the creature to sleep that night. He identifies.

The non-alive stuff continues: Ross dances with Harriet, supposedly this is to make frissons in the narrative and there is strain between him and Demelza as they remember their previous history. Demelza is of course still so beautiful, &c&c. This won’t do.

As Book 2 comes to an end, we have a new character introduced — it’s against the rules as Austen would say. A French fringe aristocrat drawn to Bella, a musician composer. If Graham had lived, this would be a new line which could move the story into Italy, and, to my surprise Book 3 is named after him: Maurice Valery. Like other conventional heroines, Bella now has several eager suitors — as does Clowance. Ho hum.

The interest of this part resides in this lurking murderer. Graham is bringing into his historical fiction his techniques from mystery stories. There is a genuinely anxiety producing fearful sequence where Demelza is coming home from visiting the Paynters late at night and feels the presence of someone following her .She hears a footstep, sees a shadow moving. I have this kind of sense and can intuit someone there when they are quietly so. It’s a street sense born of years of living in New York City (Manhattan, the Bronx). She tries to be calm, talks aloud to someone if they are there, but suddenly realizing this is serious — of course she’s thinking of these murders — she begins to run and succeeds in reaching her brother’s church and people. She asks someone to accompany her home and send someone to accompany her daughter who went walking to another house at night.

I do think it’s Valentine and the interest is that it is him, that is the psychology that is behind this man’s very sick behavior — for in a way he has been made sick by the way his parents and all around them behaved to him intimately and the values he found exemplified by powerful people and what he realized that as the favored eldest son of a rich and powerful man he could get away with and even seemed admired for – by other commonly vicious people. It reminds me of Graham’s Marnie where he explored this kind of thing.


Drury Lane Theater, end of the 18th century

Book 3: Maurice

The fiction now makes the argument implicitly — through story, dramatization, explicit comment — for sexual liberty for women as well as men.

Bella’s attempt to make a career for herself as a singer in London allows Graham to depict the commercial world of music in London in the early 19th century. What he shows reminds me closely of what is seen in Daniel Deronda. It’s all private concerts through patronage, tutoring and the reach of your teacher socially — after it’s been ascertained your voice is one which will please a different levels of crowds.

Valentine’s adoption of Butto enables Graham to show us the state of animal knowledge at the tie and how animals were regarded. This fits in with what has emerged as his interest in disabled people, how vulnerable they are (Agneta and Music Thomas), and what can be the fruitfulness of their lives if others will react with humanity and insight. I can’t tell whether Butto is supposed to be a chimp or bonobo or even orangutan (if the latter, the poor thing would be suffering even worse); I hardly think it can be a gorilla (too big) Of course he is growing up and becoming strong and violent under his imprisonment (for what’s what captivity no matter how humane feels like).

Fascinating how these historical fictions can deal with all sorts of issues …

While in London, coming out of a shop, Bella meets Letty Como who introduces herself to Letty, who clearly wants to show herself to Bella as Christopher Havergal’s coming wife. At first Christopher tries to brush the topic of this young woman off, but pretty quickly Christopher has no qualms in letting Bella knows that Letty is a prositute (high class, not in the streets) and once his mistress. As she questions him, it becomes obvious that “once” is an exaggeration. He saw Letty less than 3 weeks ago. It’s fine it seems for him to have a mistress, to deceive her: the tune “men were deceivers ever” is alluded to by Christopher.

Ben Carter marries Esther Carne (Demelza’s niece) and at the wedding, Valentine’s ape, Butto, shows up, disrupting the festivities. Again Ross is turned to — but before he can act, Valentine shows up to take his pet home. Geoffrey Charles grows very angry — as Esther’s employer and half-brother he has some authority to speak. Valentine gets the animal to leave.

Bella is home again and goes for a walk on the beach with Clowance, and the two talk indirectly of their intense disillusionment, As Bella is considering marrying, so Clowance remarrying Philip Prideaux or perhaps Fitzmaurice. Bella now speaks thinking about (the reader knows) this revelation of Christopher’s other activities and past (I’ll put it) and Clowance of Stephen’s betrayal of her by having married her while still married to another and his many lies. Fitzmaurice wants her to visit him at his country house. Bella says that men “think it is their right” to behave this way, and Clowance wonders about this “way of the world” and would not she be better off if she had had other young men besides Stephen? Should not she be “better equipped to take another husband.”

Demelza when young (Angharad Rees) with Hugh Armitage (Brian Stirne)r

If one thinks back to the all the incidents over the series of the novels, especially Demelza’s love affair with Hugh Armitage which Ross never got over (though he expected her to accept his love for and rape of Elizabeth), the depiction of marital rape in the book (as what coerced marriage is about) and Emma who refused to marry Sam and married prudently after a series of lovers (fudged in the representation) you can see Graham is making a radical argument for women’s sexual liberty. This idea lies behind his Cordelia where an affair enables the heroine to grow up, and her inability to have an affair is part of Marnie’s disability.

This is not to say that the book suggests integrity and truth-telling not important. Paradoxically it does; rather he seems to be for open marriage if one can manage this. Very hard for human beings, especially men.

The next day Clowance and Bella visit Valentine who they think their cousin. He’s their half-brother. They find his house in a shambles, he half-drunk, so too Paul Kellowes and some prostitutes in the house. He is not repentant and repeats his demand that his wife, Selina should come home to him and live with him on his terms. Right. They feed the poor chimp some bananas.

I don’t find the book melodramatic for Valentine is real as are the other characters. The series has taken a radical turn through the use of disabled characters, the adoption of a chimp to save it from torture, death, and this character the product of a rape neither man (George Warleggan or Ross) was willing to acknowledge generously.

Some lovely description of Cornwall:

A curtain of mist hung over the Black Cliffs at the further end of Hendrawna Beach, most of it caused by spray hitting the tall rocks and drifting before the breeze. There was a heavy swell which reached far out to sea, and a couple of fishing boats from St Ann’s had gone scudding back to the safety of the very unsafe har­bour. Gulls were riding the swell, lifting high and low as the waves came in; occasionally they took to the air in a flurry of flapping white when a wave unexpectedly spilled its head. No one yet expected rain: that would be tomorrow. The sun was losing its brilliance and hung in the sky like a guinea behind a muslin cloth.
Clowance squinted up at the weather. ‘Have you got a watch?’
[Bella] ‘No. Not one that goes.’

Clowance now has a letter in which a not-so-young young man proposes to her, Lord Fitzmaurice, in such terms of courteous upright abjection that it would not be out of place in Sir Charles Grandison. (Chapters 4-7). This will not do.

Bella elopes with Maurice Valery to Rouen where she has been sort of promised the leading role in Rossini’s Barber of Seville. She tells a false story to her mother in a letter (that she is chaperoned) when it is partly an escapade where in fact there is no firm promise and no chaperon. This is somewhat better but not much as we are expected to believe Demelza would accept this, so too Caroline’s aunt (with whom Bella was staying) without this being publicly declared “a ruin” (whatever the women might think privately). Plus the father, Ross, is supposed complacent. All anachronistic.

George Warleggan (Michael Attwell), first meeting with Lady Harriet (Sarah Carpenter (96 Poldark, Stranger from the Sea)

Better is George comes near death through falling off his horse into a fast running river near a mine, a partial replay of Francis Poldark’s death as we are with the man as he manages to find a ledge and hold on and wait. Only this man is saved by his much more vigorous alert wife, Harriet. She may not be much fun for him to live with but she’s an effective personality. He is not grateful to her dogs who did the scouting out of the shouts she hears when she draws near after she gets a map from the man he had been visiting on business.

Not so improbably and suddenly alive with the actual life that runs through these novels is Ross’s sudden visit to George when Ross hears he came near death. Ross has a proposition: he wants to buy up Valentine’s mine which Valentine has been supporting through smuggling as it’s not a working concern, as the smuggling agent has been arrested and will turn evidence if nothing is done to remove it from view. Ross’s motive is to spare “Elizabeth’s son.” George would have refused but again Harriet intervenes as this is just spite and moral stupidity. This is a good scene — as well as the near murder of a local peasant girl, Jean Heligan. We get a glimpse of the frightening tall figure in black with his rough knife. Jean is strong and throws him off and escapes. She tells her story to the magistrates. More than one man fits the description: beyond Valentine there is Philip Prideaux, who in the novel functions as agent for quite a number of people (police, Ross to Valentine unknown to Valentine to persuade him to give up this losing mine).

Valentine is nothing if not really perceptive — part of the fascination of the character is this. He sees through Ross’s ploy to keep him out of prison, but nonetheless lets Prideaux buy up Wheal Elizabeth. We get more of Valentine’s curious household (Chapters 8-9). Not only is there this ape which he really is fond of, but the Kellows, Paul continually drunk and Daisy now dying (she was the one seduced and abandoned by Stephen Carrington around the time he married Clowance). They are a family stricken down by TB, with no help anywhere from anyone for real. Paul was one of the original three who robbed Warleggan’s bank, the only one left standing now.

As part of the mystery plot Paul informs Valentine that cleft where Agneta’s body has been found has been relocated and people are investigating it.


Clowance (Kelly Reilly) associated with a love of horses, of riding (96 Poldark)

Book 4: Clowance

Book 4 opens with a large political event: the coming to England of the unwanted Caroline. Having set the time by Caroline’s attempt to participate in the coronation, Graham reverts to his stories and there is again real power. Bella (Isabella-Rose – what a name) has become lovers with Maurice, and Ross comes to see her play in Rouen. He realizes that something intimate and real is going on between them, but before this can be taken further, the story reverts to Clowance and her acceptance of Lord Edward Fitzmaurice.

The decision comes out of a mindset that begins to resemble that of Elizabeth Chynoweth in the early Poldark books. Having experienced the realities of male deceit in sexual matters, and what love did not bring her (though the sex was good), she now wants to make a decision to marry on prudential self-interested grounds. We saw where that led ultimately Elizabeth. The first husband, Francis, ended up bankrupt, and because she could not get herself to continue a strong sexual life with him, had mistresses, and (because in his nature too) drank heavily; unable to cope with the corrupt driving types around him, he betrayed the hero (Ross), and then became depressed, self-destructed. George was a moral horror to live with and her attempt to control him ended in her death.

Bella’s decision might be said to resemble Demelza’s who simply went to bed with Ross when she could — as his servant, not brought up not to. Demelza’s turns out to be a love match, but I suspect Bella’s will not. Indeed there seems some danger she’ll lose her voice; if so, this is punitive and reminds me of other male fictions where the problem of a female’s ambition is solved by her losing her gift. Women authors do it too: George Eliot has a poem in this vein.

The story begins again to have intense feeling when we are told by a letter by Demelza to Clowance that Ross has returned with Bella very sick, “Morbid throat.” I know realize this is diptheria. Clowance determines to return home just as her letter accepting Edward reaches him and he frantically rides across England to reach her. He turns up and they realize they are strangers; both offer to back down. She thinks he sees her as this poor widow in a tiny cottage, which she is but we are asked to idealize this guy. He begins to remind me of Drake: Graham’s idea of a good kind man in deep love despite himself.

Ever available and convenient, Caroline (knows everyone of course) offers to give Edward a place to live while Clowance goes to help her mother nurse this sister.

The power of the narrative comes in here. It’s possible a couple like Ross and Demelza could lose another child. Jeremy now dead, they could lose this daughter in just the way they did the first (Demelza). Graham perhaps overdoes the parallel by having Ross remember the contrasting times of year, and he whitewashes what Ross did partly in reaction (led a riot) but the whole seqence is effective.

She could have died. Graham killed off Jeremy — and before that Francis, Elizabeth, Armitage. Death was common. She does seem to be coming through.

Drake Carne (Kevin McNally), Morwenna Chynoweth (Jane Wyman) with Geoffrey Charles (actor not listed) when young

I left off as Clowance and Edward are getting to know one another by walking along the beach – very much a reworking of the Drake-Morwenna romance.

For the finis

Bella goes on the stage cross-dressed as Romeo (in the spirit of Kemble)

and bonding with Elizabeth Chynoweth, Valentine’s mother:

When young

see comments.

Read Full Post »